Two college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the terrorist attack which killed three race spectators and injured more than 260 people in twin explosions at the marathon’s finish line on April 15.
According to the US attorney in Boston, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19 years old and both Kazakhstan nationals, received a text message from Mr. Tsarnaev instructing them to “take what’s there,” presumably material evidence connecting Tsarnaev to that day’s bombing.
Authorities say the two friends gathered Tsarnaev’s laptop computer, fireworks, and a backpack and took them to their apartment in New Bedford, Mass., where they placed the items in a plastic bag and put it in a dumpster. The bag and its contents were later found in a city landfill.
Messrs. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were students at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth along with Tsarnaev. On April 18, the FBI posted pictures of Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an alleged co-conspirator who died the next day during the manhunt.
The next evening, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found wounded and hiding out in a covered sailboat parked behind a house in nearby Watertown, Mass.
The bombings had involved backpacks carrying pressure cookers filled with explosives and shrapnel set to detonate seconds apart.
In June, the surviving Tsarnaev brother was formally indicted on charges including murder and using weapons of mass destruction in the attack.
The 30-count indictment by a federal grand jury also includes a charge of murder in the shooting death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. Seventeen of the 30 charges against Tsarnaev could bring the death penalty or life in prison.
If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face up to 25 years in prison. In the United States on student visas, they also could be deported.
Also Thursday, a hearing scheduled for Monday for a third Tsarnaev friend charged in the case, Robel Phillipos, was canceled, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Phillipos is accused of lying to investigators. In a court filing, his attorneys say they're in talks that could resolve the case.
Kadyrbayev’s attorney, Robert Stahl, said in a statement that his client was disappointed he was indicted, especially since he cooperated with the FBI and was so forthcoming about what he knew that the FBI was able to recover the items they were searching for, The Boston Globe reports.
“Even though he was literally stunned and in fear [when Tsarnaev was identified as a bomber], and even though he is from a country where the police are routinely distrusted, from the moment the authorities approached him he has cooperated fully,” Mr. Stahl wrote in the statement.
“Despite the rush to judgment and, now, the present charges, Dias trusts the American justice system and looks forward to proving his innocence at trial,” Stahl wrote.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov have been in custody since their arrest. They are scheduled for arraignment next Tuesday.